One day we invited another ‘town’ friend to join us at the natural ponding on the edge of the hockey fields. In amongst ensuring my toddler didn’t fall in, sketching the ducks on the pond, finding a bird’s nest and discussing the pond’s flora an idea was born. An idea that was to change our nature experience, one that was to introduce our children to a whole new dimension, to throw two intrepid mothers into a series of wild nature adventures….. (Part 1)
Part 2 – The Adventurous Years
Inspired to expose our children to God’s natural world yet limited by the constraints of town living, my friend Margaret and I decided to take our children’s nature exposure to a ‘whole new level.’ Every fortnight for the next three years we would set the van towards different points of the compass; North, East, South, West, heading into the country searching until we found public access to any possible opportunity for ‘nature appreciation’. Six children, two pregnant women trekking ‘over hill and dale’ enjoying our ‘Wild Nature Adventures.’ The months passed and we added newborns to the mix, by this stage we were rather committed to our Adventures and our newborns adjusted accordingly. Our picnics were spent trying to keep them on the blanket and safe from ants, mosquitoes and sunburn. Two adventurous women and eight children.
We explored many corners of our locality that we would otherwise have overlooked. Several country cemeteries were ‘discovered’ and enthused over. Well Margaret and I enthused, we both found cemeteries fascinating, for some reason our children found this odd. The cemeteries were surrounded by bushland, presenting wonderful exploration opportunities. Water was always a major draw; local waterholes, creeks and always our River drew us. Access to water enabled fantastic arenas in which to explore large areas and to enjoy the water itself. For nine months of the year in our corner of the world it is warm enough to swim, at least sufficiently warm for brave, intrepid children. Patches of grassed areas by the roadside, our local walking track, a bird ponding ‘sanctuary’, we were constantly seeking new and different experiences. Often we would revisit our favourite spots in different seasons, due to rain or the lack thereof we could find a different ‘spot’ on return. Regardless, we were always keen for Adventure.
Initially we would pack our nature journals, sketching pencils, magnifying glasses and collection buckets. It soon became apparent that hauling some of this ‘equipment’ was redundant. The children were not keen on nature journaling, so with feelings of being ‘nature study failures’ Margaret and I abandoned this dream. Although we occasionally would feebly attempt to resurrect the idea, to no avail. These years were prior to owning a digital camera and mostly we forgot the camera, alas how we regret that now. The focus of our ‘Wild Nature Adventures’ was exploring! This we did extremely well, we retain so many memories of some wild and crazy days.
We have so many memories; imprinted is the day at a newly discovered waterhole, the children hiked around the waterhole, forging through bramble and undergrowth, we could hear them calling out their discoveries as they went, the carcass of a dead cow was the main feature. They reappeared on the opposite bank to where we were sitting, urged on by the baying of an approaching dog, and seeking a ‘shortcut’ they decided to swim back. Due to the ongoing drought the water level was low but still deep in parts, and as it was winter, the water was rather cold. Nothing daunted, our children decided to swim over, Margaret and I were calling encouragement and marveling at their adventurous spirit, Margaret’s seven year old was not a confident swimmer and was not too sure about the fun of this expedition.
On another Adventure we discovered a ‘new’ creek; still in drought the water was very low which completely changed the water flow, resulting in awesome mini rapids running at a perfect pace for children, that really was a fantastic day!! We were never to find the water level perfect in that spot again. I recall a day we were exploring little inlets and back billabongs along the River, with Margaret and I fording rocky waterways with pram (and child), children eagerly racing ahead, discovering new finds. The time we spent at the bird ponding sanctuary in the ‘hide’ delighted to watch a rare visit of a black swan! Hiking through the bush, up a rocky incline, marvelling at the large Grasstrees, picnicking afterwards. Swimming in the River, far upriver, tall, smooth rock faces on the opposite bank. So many nature finds were gathered; cow bones, snake skins, bird nests, wide variety of flowers, so much observation and a huge immersion in nature, we have rich memories indeed.
Over the years we adventured and picnicked up and down our River and explored so many areas ‘off the beaten track’ we could write a locality guide. Wonderful, adventurous years, expeditions in which we ‘headed out’ with anticipation not knowing what the afternoon would bring. However a change was on the horizon, one that brought an end to our ‘Wild Days’ together yet brought a wealth of new nature experiences to our children’s lives, a new season was to begin……to be continued